ATF BEING BAD AGAIN - Printable Version

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- Jerry D Mead - 11-20-1999 06:25 PM


Binghamton, NY: Mighty BATF Threatens Small Homebrew Wine Company

An ongoing battle with capricious and arbitrary rulings by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) may force the tiny Hemp Wine America Corporation (HWA) of Binghamton, NY, producers of a legal hemp oil flavored wine, out of the market.

Last year HWA applied for and received from the BATF a basic wine producer's permit, plus label approval for its hemp oil flavored white wine. In December, 1998, HWA applied for approval for its hemp oil flavored red wine. The company is still waiting for a response.

In spite of the fact that the only difference between the two labels is the name of the product ("Harvest Red" vs. "Northern White"), BATF held up approval of the second label with a series of obfuscations and confused rulings. In their latest action, officials at the agency claimed they have no record of the serial number for the application of label approval of the red hemp wine. The agency's claim follows a full year of letters and phone calls pertaining to the application for label approval between BATF, HWA, the Hemp Industries Association and Congressman Maurice D. Hinchey, representative in HWA's federal district.

John W. Magaw, BATF Director, claims that "the term hemp creates a misleading impression pertaining to product identity," alluding to the fact that one variety of the hemp plant, marijuana, contains psychoactive principles. Later in the same letter Magaw referred to hemp as a controlled substance, but this is untrue of the industrial varieties used in cosmetics, clothing, jewelry, ropes, and HWA¹s wines.

Although it is not legal to grow hemp in the United States, thousands of hemp-based products are sold here legally, provided that they do not contain psychoactive chemicals and that any hemp seeds used in the products have been sterilized. The hemp fibers, seeds and oils are imported from China, Canada, the Netherlands, and numerous other countries where industrial hemp production is legal.

Says James Castetter, President of HWA, "The hemp seed oil we use in our product has been tested by an independent laboratory, and does not contain any psychoactive chemicals. All it does is impart a unique, lovable flavor to the wine." Castetter also says that his hemp oil flavored wine is approved for sale in his home state, New York, and in other states across the country, yet BATF pressure is making it increasingly difficult for his company to obtain additional distribution.

"We have many, many customers waiting for our red wine," says Castetter, noting, "I believe the BATF is hoping we¹ll just go away."

For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact:

James Castetter, President
Hemp Wine America
60 Grand Boulevard
Binghamton, NY 13905